Darwin: Day 2 – Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve

The reserve is a haven for wildlife near Darwin.  There are birds, snakes (death adder and water python for example) and crocodiles move in during the wet season.  There are boardwalks in the park to make safe for the environment and the people walking around.

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What I found fascinating was the history of the dam.  In the 1950’s a project was begun to grow rice in the wetlands.  However it was too wet to grow so it was turned into the wetlands bird sanctuary.  There is a trail called the Humpty Doo Rice Trail (Humpty Doo being the name of the area) dedicated to the history of the area.

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It is a beautiful, serene area.  You could sit for hours just watching the wildlife.

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I would love to have seen the photo this guy took.  The driver stopped the bus so we could watch a bird in a tree.  She realised that was what the guy was trying to photograph.  He waited very patiently while we looked.  When we began to move we drove very slowly so we didn’t scare the bird out of the tree.

 

Darwin Day 2: I smiled at a crocodile – Jumping crocodile tour

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The Jumping Crocodile Tour was possibly my most-anticipated tour of my holiday.  I’ve never been very close to a croc.  Even at a zoo, the crocs are quite far away.  Knowing they were going to be just a few metres away was both scary and awe-inspiring.  Crocodiles are a big part of the Northern Territory, especially in the Top End (Darwn, Kakadu etc).  It is estimated that there are more than 80,000 crocs in the waterways.  Everyone is told not to swim in any open waters because there could be crocodiles.  Most waterholes are closed during the wet season and only open after extensive testing.  That means putting the croc traps in the rivers and waterholes to see if they catch any crocs.  Any that are caught up taken to croc farms.

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Crocodiles spend most of their time under water. Being a cold-blooded animal, they only come up to bask in the sun the warm their bodies.  During the warmer months they bury themselves in the mud on the banks of the rivers under the shade of the trees.   They are not normally seen so they get tempted out of the water by buffalo meat on the end of a long pole.  They are very careful not to feed the same crocs all the time. They don’t want them to get too used to getting an easy meal and rely on the tours as a food source.  It’s hard to believe but the tour operators know the crocs by sight and have named a lot of them.

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Our tour was on the Adelaide River.  Once we left the pier we steered to a point a few kilometres down the river, searching for crocs.  When we got on the boat we were warned to stay on the side of the boat we were sitting on.  We were warned that we would be dinner for the crocs if we all moved to one side and the boat rolled over.  That was a very sombre though so everyone was careful not to move.  To make that easier for us they would entice a croc to one side of the boat, lure it with buffalo meat and give it three chances to snatch the meat.  Whether it got the meat or not, the boat would be moved so the people on the other side of the boat could see the same process.  Once both sides saw this the boat was moved further downriver to find another croc.  The operators’ love of the crocodiles is very apparent in the care they take to protect them during the tour.

Sometimes they don’t get to see many crocs on the tours so we were very lucky to see four or five.  Including one huge one that measured about 5.5m long.  We were about to turn around and go back when he came along. You could just see his head gliding along with the rest of his body below water.

It is very thrilling to see a croc jumping vertically out of the water, revealing almost all of it’s body.  I was fascinated to think that the croc was only 1-1.5m away from me.  They are magnificent creatures.  I loved being able to see how big their jaws are and the definition of their jaws.  We were close enough to see how sharp their teeth are.  I was surprised to how few teeth they have.

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One of the crocodiles coming towards us.

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This is the Adelaide River.  It is such a picturesque area.

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The second part of the tour was Rachel feeding these birds.  I don’t know a lot of breeds of birds so I can’t remember them.  They were so majestic though.

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When we were approaching the wharf we were warned there was a female crocodile sunning herself.  We were advised not to look for her, just to get to land as quick as we could.  I didn’t see it but I certainly wasn’t going to walk slowly to find out what she would do if disturbed.

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Darwin Day 1 – Sunset Dinner Cruise

The first touristy thing we did in Darwin was the Sunset Dinner Cruise on the Charles Darwin with Darwin Harbour Cruises.

Not knowing our way around we almost got on the wrong boat.  There are two companies running similar cruises and we nearly got on the first boat we saw.  While queuing to board I had a funny feeling we were in the wrong place. I asked the man that was helping people board and he confirmed my doubt.  So we had to rush back to move the car further down Stokes Hill wharf.

We departed soon after boarding but had to wait a while for dinner.  The sun hadn’t started setting yet so we had a few drinks and chatted.  I have to say the food was quite average in my opinion but I’m not one for mass-produced buffet food.  However I wasn’t there for the food.  I was there for the sunset.  And I wasn’t let down. At all!  It was the most stunning sunset I have ever seen.  As soon as it started to set I was out the door on the balcony and took a few hundred photos in about 20 minutes.  Below are four that I picked out to share with you.

 

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Darwin accommodation – Mantra on the Esplanade

Our accommodation was at the Mantra on the Esplanade, overlooking Darwin Harbour.  I was lucky to be able to see the sun rise from my bedroom window and the sun set from the balcony.  It was a three bedroom apartment but we booked an apartment with a 1 bedroom apartment and a connecting hotel-style room.  However when we checked in we were upgraded to the three bedroom apartment.  Parts of the décor were a little dated in some rooms but it was a nice comfortable apartment.  During the day the temperature was around 32 degrees Celsius every day so we had to keep the air-conditioner on all the time.  Each room had it’s own control and I had to keep mine on during the night.  Our apartment faced west and caught the afternoon sun.

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The sun setting from our apartment balcony.  The colours of a Darwin sunset are simply amazing.

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Darwin – Day 1. Getting there

Our flight to Darwin was scheduled for 8.35am. To get there (I live about 40 mins from Melbourne Airport) meant leaving home at 5.30, and dropping the car off at the airport parking place. What I didn’t plan for was missing the turn off to the airport and having to drive across the Westgate Bridge, getting off the freeway and straight back on again in the opposite direction so I could take the correct exit. All this wasted about 15 minutes. Once I dropped off my car and we got the transfer bus to the airport I was able to relax.

In my opinion, the efforts airlines have gone to to make it “easier” to check in are only making it easier for them to not hire terminal staff. Even though we checked in and chose our seats before leaving for the airport, we still had to spend about 10 mins trying to understand the new check in system. It doesn’t seem to save passengers much time.

Next stop was the food court to buy some breakfast. I can’t eat before a flight until I’m safely checked in and ready to board the plane. We had at least half an hour to fill in before boarding so we were able to relax and watch the planes come and go from the Qantas terminal. Once we boarded we had to wait for forty minutes because a passenger had to get medical clearance before he could fly. Unfortunately he chose to tell the flight attendant after he had boarded.

To get to Darwin, you fly right over the centre of Australia, including Alice Springs and nearby Uluru (nearby being a relative term). It is while flying over the centre that you realise how Australia really is the wide, brown land. I sat in the window seat so was able to look out of the plane for a lot of the flight. There’s not a lot to see apart from the desert but it has its own beauty.

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Lake Eyre

Lake Eyre (above) is Australia’s biggest lake. It covers 9,500sq kms and is the lowest point in Australia at 15m below sea level. It only fills once every fifty years on average because it is in an arid and semi-arid part of the driest continent in the world. There are smaller floods every three or four years but they only fill it up to 1.5-2m. It is divided into two sections. The section in the photo above measures 65km x 24 km. It is a salt lake and the salt is up to 50cm thick at its thickest point. I was really glad when we flew over it. I didn’t really know the path we would fly from Melbourne to Darwin.

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